’13 Reasons Why’ sparks controversy

Dalton Stokes

Since its release, everyone has been talking about Netflix’s new hit TV show “13 Reasons Why.” Between internet memes and social media posts, the hype has been inescapable.

While it has received overwhelmingly positive audience feedback, the show has sparked a recent controversy among psychology and mental health professionals.

The show itself is about a girl who decides to commit suicide after negative experiences with bullying in high school, but before doing so she made 13 tapes to tell the world her story and the 13 reasons why she did it.

The controversy that has ignited is over whether or not it was acceptable for the producers and director of the show to show her committing suicide.

Critics of this decision are saying that they should not have shown her committing suicide because it could inspire copy cats, it semi-romanticizes the idea of suicide and it could also be very painful to watch for people who have past or present experience with similar issues.

While these are understandable claims, it is within the director’s own artistic freedom to depict the show how they see fit. It may be good for Netflix to add a trigger warning before watching the show to inform the viewers that the content may be emotionally disturbing.

Another widely voiced criticism is that the show does not depict the signs of suicide and the experience of contemplating suicide in an accurate light. This is a fair statement to make but not a valid criticism to the quality or acceptability of the show itself.

Both of these arguments seem a bit inert in the larger context of our society since some of the most popular movies are either about people with superpowers or about war, violence and killing.

The show didn’t claim to be a documentary nor an accurate representation of anyone’s experience. It is illogical to judge it under those criteria. It is a fictional narrative—a story that might never happen.

Artistically, it was a good decision to show her actually committing the act. It throws the issue at hand into the face of the audience, forcing them to confront their emotions about it.

Overall, I think that the artistic choice was the right one, and arguments against it apply some logical inconsistencies and unfair standards to the greater context of film as an artform.

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